Of many preferred professions, I find chefs to be on the right end of the hotness scale. Their passion for food translates into multiple areas of life and it’s hard not to get swept away into a blissful utopia where calories don’t count but your opinion of that chocolate mousse does. As you may have guessed, I have been suckered into this world once or twice, and unlike the obsessions of mine that turned sour, my chef love remains.
I had high expectations for the Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart led kitchen romance No Reservations. Two hot-tempered executive chefs forced together to run one kitchen sounded almost as steamy as angry sex in the Grey’s Anatomy on-call room. The potential for secret glances over chopping boards and mutual arousal from yelling at their sous chef seemed inevitable. However, the movie wasn’t about the sexy times of these two hot chefs. Rather it was more about Zeta-Jones’ Kate and Eckhart’s Nick learning to put aside their ambition and realize what’s important in life. Sex and cooking go hand-in-hand, so thankfully the couple does partake in a few tingly make-out moments and fade-to-black sex scenes. But most of the movie’s heavy petting is left for the dough in the prep oven.
Tough lady chefs like Zeta-Jones’ Kate are modeled after real chefs, but that doesn’t mean Hollywood has been quick to allow women to be tough and sexy on screen. On the contrary, many movies featuring female cooks have been just that—cooks.
Being a cook suggests it’s just a hobby, or something a woman should know intrinsically how to do, while declaring someone a “chef” suggests education, skill, passion, and passively assumed maleness. Chocolat and Woman on Top both turn the script on this idea. Both movies feature beautiful women who use their chef-ing abilities to seduce men. They aren’t malicious tricksters; rather they are magical, unattainable creatures intoxicating to the opposite sex. Their doe-like appearances attract their suitors, while their delicious creations keep them coming back.
Sex in both films isn’t blatant or gratuitous. Like a musical uses dance numbers to simulate relationship building, creation of food, cooking lessons, and personalized recipes bring the couples together and offer the sexier moments in the movies. Vivanne (Juliette Binoche) catches the eye of pirate Roux (Johnn Depp) by attempting to guess his favorite candy. The couple dance around each other while the camera focuses on the intense pleasure on Roux’s face while he tries her many confections, yet leaving Vivanne unsatisfied when she offers one wrong guess after another. This is their first love scene, and it is a perfect way for the new lovers to explore each other. Food brought them together, and when the moment finally arrives for them to move upstairs their chaste candy-making scenes and their sexually charged love scenes feel equally electric.
Woman on Top also features a magical chef who casts spells on the men who eat her creations. Isabella (Penelope Cruz) leaves her neglectful husband for a cooking show hosting gig in California. She believes strongly in the adage that a man’s heart is directly linked to his stomach, and uses her new job to attract the attention of her husband Toninho (Murilo Benicio), while unintentionally prompting her producer Cliff (Mark Fuerstein) to confess his love for her. Both men fight over this sexy seductress, who has no idea that the passion she puts into each of her dishes directly affects the way they both feel about her. Just as Vivanne’s sensuous cooking lessons with Roux moved the couple into the bedroom and beyond, Isabella and Toninho find their way back to each other through cooking. Their final love scene does not involve a bed, but a kitchen where they use their hands to create together.
The sexy chef fantasy doesn’t always have to involve an actual chef. Just having a mutual interest in food play and experimentation can take the couple into a new world. 9 ½ Weeks doesn’t feature any cooks, but the couple does not shy away from using their own bodies as food inspiration. In the iconic and often mocked scene between Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger, and Kim Basinger’s belly button, Rourke’s John sexual teases and enlightens Basinger’s Elizabeth about her own sensuality. This couple can’t really sustain their relationship outside the walls of their bedrooms, but that doesn’t stop them from engaging in arguably one of the most erotic on-screen affairs.
John and Elizabeth do not shy away from food play so hot it’s almost hard to think the egg-frying homage scene in Hot Shots: Part Deux didn’t really happen in 9 ½ Weeks. Food disconnects John from his partner, allowing him to remain in control over Elizabeth’s pleasure with every swipe of fruit over her chest and into her mouth. He doesn’t ask for it in return, because he’s the kind of man who wants to make someone else sticky with desire. Sometimes a control freak isn’t so bad.
In my current state of singleness and March film festival busy-ness, I find comfort in the on-screen fantasy of the sexy chef. It’s a nice way to distract myself, while keeping my waistline from popping that one extra belt mark. Or having to cuddle after curry. The sexy chef seems like it would be a popular direction for a character, however he makes fewer appearances than would be imagined. When he does it’s something to celebrate, and not just with a croissant.
Okay, maybe just one bite.